Teachers support colleagues in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina may be just a grim memory to those of us not in its path. But remnants of the devastation linger in the coastal Southeast. In one of many efforts to help, teachers throughout Washington have teamed up to offer supplies, support and encouragement to teachers from the St. Bernard Parish School District in New Orleans.

Debra Pastore, director of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in the College of Education, worked with Gail Gleason, a WSU Ph.D. student, and Dee Baumgartner, a teacher in the Pullman School District, to create the Teacher-to-Teacher Project.

The project is a way for teachers in Washington to offer support to other teachers, not only through supplies, but through encouraging e-mails and phone calls, Gleason said.

Pastore started the project by contacting NBPTS teachers in eastern Washington.

“We wanted to start off slowly so that this is a successful project,” Pastore said. She is now working on expanding the network of teachers who participate to the west side of the state.

Designed as a three- to five-year project, Pastore said it was created to offer supplies as well as mentoring to teachers.

“We want to help them survive,” Gleason said. “Teaching is a stressful experience anyway and mentoring helps prevent burnout.”

Gleason, whose son is a New Orleans Saints football player, organized WSU’s earlier Backpacks for Hope project through which more than 7,000 backpacks of school supplies were collected and delivered to New Orleans children. The Saints football team helped with distribution of the backpacks and will help with fundraising on the Teacher-to-Teacher project, Gleason said.

The U.S. Department of Education has also committed to helping fund the project. For every $100 raised in donated materials, the department will contribute $900.

The St. Bernard Parish School District was chosen because of the devastating aftermath of the storm.
“They went from 20 schools to two buildings,” Gleason said.

“After the hurricane, (restoring) the school became a vision for the community,” Gleason said. Many teachers went to work fixing classrooms while still living in FEMA trailers.

Anyone interested in assisting with the project can contact Pastore at 335-7475 or by e-mail at dpastore@wsu.edu.

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